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Is It Safe To Go To The Hospital Now? Actually, Yes—But On These Conditions!

Here’s the lowdown on the situation of hospitals and medical facilities in the metro

It’s been 112 days since the first confirmed Covid-19 case was announced in the Philippines, and infections and deaths continue to rise by the day, with no indications of slowing down. As of writing, the Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed 13,221 cases and 842 deaths in the country.

As a health pandemic, hospitals have borne the brunt of this crisis, overwhelming doctors and hospitals across the country. As early as March 26, roughly two months ago, eight private hospitals in Metro Manila claimed that they have reached their maximum capacity to handle Covid-19 cases.

So, to help the health sector deal with the continuing rise of Covid-19 cases, new facilities have been constructed in the last weeks.

New Covid Facilities

Private and private places are now being converted to Covid-19 facilities to respond to the need for spaces and beds to accommodate Covid patients. First on the list are huge event spaces which won’t be able to serve their purpose for the next few months since all events and large gatherings are prohibited.

Last month, the Philsports Arena in Pasig City was transformed into health facility with 132 hospital beds and two nurse stations, while the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was also successfully converted into a medical facility in just seven days. PICC was fitted with 294 patient cubicles, six nurse stations, a mobile pharmacy and a mobile X-ray machine.

The World Trade Center, in partnership with the Ayala Group of companies, was also completely converted into a quarantine facility and could house 502 patients.

The Ninoy Aquino Stadium and the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Malate have both been converted into isolation facilities in line with the We Heal As One centers project. As of May 4, around 395 medical personnel have been deployed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in these facilities.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) also launched in April 20, a new treatment facility inside Pier 15 at the Manila South Harbor, which houses 211 cubicles distributed in different zones for those who are showing mild, more advanced, and severe symptoms. The facility was also built to serve repatriating seafarers and OFWs who may not manifest Covid-19 symptoms but are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Manila is one of the cities with the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Metro, and is currently capable of conducting 300 swab tests a day. In response to the climbing numbers and the projected increase of cases due to the start of the MECQ and GCQ, Mayor Isko Moreno has started building quarantine facilities at Tondo High School, Delpan, and Araullo High School. If the facilities are not enough, more high schools in Manila will be converted to these quarantine facilities.

Marikina has also been a standout in how the city and their mayor responded to the Covid-19 threat. As of May 3, the local government has partnered with the United Architects of the Philippines-Manila Chapter and the AFP to build 56 emergency quarantine facilities (EQFs) designed to treat and isolate COVID-19 patients with mild to no symptoms, which could help decongest hospitals. These EQFs could also augment the hospitals’ capacity and capability to contain the pandemic.

As of April 22, the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 confirmed that both private and public sectors have successfully established 3,052 quarantine facilities nationwide that can accommodate 200,000 COVID-19 patients.

But even though there is now more room to accommodate patients, it doesn’t mean that hospitals are now out of deep water. In fact, despite the immense support from various private companies and entities who continue to pour donations into hospitals and Covid facilities, the aid is not enough.

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Hospitals nearing bankruptcy

In an interview with ANC News, Dr. Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, says that hundreds of private hospitals could go bankrupt in the coming month.

“Most of [Covid-19 patients] cannot pay and most of them are transferred to us. Most of the people want private sector hospitals [to] manage them because they know the survival is better compared to government hospitals,” he shares.

That’s why they’re planning to push for private hospital aid in the senate in the next weeks to help hospitals who are dealing with the national pandemic with dwindling resources.

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So, is it safe to the hospital?

In a press briefing on March 9, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that it is indeed safe to go to the hospitals. He said, “Our hospitals have infection prevention and control practices in place so there is no need to avoid going to these hospitals, especially if you feel unwell.”

Dr. Patrick Gonzalez, who is currently based at Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), emphasizes that “Hospitals nowadays have taken measures to minimize risk of being infected by Covid-19, be it sanitation, PPEs for the health workers and staff, proper isolation and limiting patient flow for some.”

But, should you go to hospitals?

It may be safe, yes, but maybe you don’t have to come running to the nearest hospital if you feel unwell, whether it’s Covid-19-related symptoms or not.

“Some hospitals have closed their outpatient departments for now. The risk of having too many people in one place is far too great. One cough or sneeze is all it takes,” says Dr. Patrick.

In fact, since most hospitals now are over encumbered with the surge of Covid-19 patients on top of their regular patients, many recommend to call ahead for non-emergency situations.

Last month, DOH boosted its telemedical services to cater to Metro Manila, so as to discourage people from bombarding hospitals with non-emergency concerns. For health-related concerns, contact these hotlines to consult with their volunteer doctors.

  • DOH COVID-19 hotlines: 1555; (02) 894-COVID (26843)
  • Telimed Management and Medgate hotline: (02) 8424-1724
  • Globe Telehealth, Inc (KonsultaMD): (02) 7798-8000

But still, Dr. Patrick recommends to evaluate your condition on a case to case basis, and to go to the hospital if you need immediate help. “Of course, the recommendation is that if your symptoms are quite severe, do seek medical help. Also, there are people who are struck by conditions that are fatal if not given immediate medical or surgical intervention such as strokes, heart attack, or severe trauma. They are far more likely to die from those than contract Covid-19 from a hospital.”

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